The Fort Bend ISD board of trustees unanimously approved a $170,000 design contract Nov. 15 for an outdoor learning environment and revitalized cemetery at the James Reese Career and Technical Center—the site where the remains of 95 people were discovered in 2018.

Known as the Sugar Land 95, these individuals are believed to be convicts who died at the Bullhead Convict Labor Camp during Texas’ convict labor leasing program, which was established following the end of the Civil War and is seen as an extension of slavery.

Boston-based nonprofit MASS Design Group will design the learning area and cemetery. MASS aims to research, build and advocate for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity, senior associate Jha D Amazi said. The firm worked on the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama.

“Last fall when we found out about this project and were invited here to Sugar Land, Texas, ... we were immediately inspired and convinced to support in any way that we can, and we remain dedicated to helping the district realize this project,” Amazi said during a Nov. 8 presentation to the board.

During the design process, MASS will collect community feedback, create a concept plan, and develop the project’s name and narrative, Amazi said. Funding for the design phase comes from the 2014 bond, district documents show.

Once the design is completed, the district will undertake a capital campaign and other fundraising initiatives to generate the money necessary for construction, according to district documents.

Several trustees and Superintendent Christie Whitbeck said the space will serve as a source of learning both for FBISD students and the greater community.

“The community has been through a lot,” Whitbeck said Nov. 8. “[This project] is taking a tragedy and turning it into something our children can learn from.”